Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Bangsawan Experience

They say apart from Samurai Night, you are not a true KYUEM-ian if you have not experienced Bangsawan Night. And after last night's Bangsawan I can assure you there is great truth behind those words.

We only had 3 weeks to prepare for our stage performance for the big night and well, let's just say it wasn't easy...AT ALL. Practices ran everyday from 4.30pm to 6.30pm and later at night up to 10.30pm. For the past 3 weeks, I don't think any of us could manage to sleep before 2am while we tried to keep up with our classwork and readings despite the exhaustion after long hours of practices. Teachers were getting slightly weary of our sleepy heads in classes too.

But I think we had an amazing time going through the Bangsawan journey. We got to bond with the other House members and it's the perfect timing to get to know the newly-arrived Batch 14 juniors better. We got to see our friends unleashed talents and creativity we never thought they had. And we learned the essential elements that make up who we really are, as part of the House and the college; teamwork, patience, perseverance, good sense of humour, competitive spirit, the drive to have fun and enjoy the things we do.

Topaz's drama was called 'Titisan Darah Sukma' directed by Yasmin with Keri as the Sultan, Qistina as the Queen, myself as the evil, bitchy second Queen and a few others, Megat, Nadeem and Adib. We had our own interpretation of the characters and I think we did a fairly impressive job in trying to portray each character. What made it even more special was the presence of our superseniors who were willing to come all the way back to KY to watch our rehearsals and give feedbacks where necessary and heightened our spirit just in time for the night.

We had past Bangsawan directors from Batch 10, Batch 11 and Batch 12 coming in and giving tips on how to improve our performance. On how to do 'stage blocking', the best make-up for the character, voice projection etc. Knowing that we had the support from these seniors, it was enough of an assurance that we'll be alright that night.

The pressure was on us to win again this year's Bangsawan after Topaz's victory in winning it for 3 consecutive years. And so, last night, we did stretch the winning streak to 4 times in a row with the Best Director (Yasmin), Best Choreography (Fathin was in-charged) and the Best Villain (yours truly, hehe) awards under our belt too. Syukur :)

Others might question our winnings but the thing I've learned about Topaz after being with them for a year is that we do not seek for victory every time we get involved in college events or competitions. Rather, we seek the enjoyment and satisfaction that we will get out of the process of reaching the end. We were always reminded by our seniors that our niat or intentions have to be sincere in everything we do. Not to seek glory and flaunt it to others but to do the opposite; to celebrate what we have achieved with our hardwork and to remain humble with each achievement.

And as the present seniors, it is now our duty to remind our juniors of the same thing. I find that Topaz has practiced 'tried and tested' formula in the way we handle a lot of the things because we take after past leaderships of the House. But at the same time, each Batch will add their own flavour and improve from there onwards.

Looking back at last night, I honestly did think each House put up an amazing performance. Didn't get to see Garnet's but my parents who were present in the audience thought Garnet's drama was entertaining to watch. I loved Diamond's beautiful, majestic-looking props as well as the feisty characters and plot they portrayed. I saluted Sapphire for personifying the strength of women in their drama and the characters' scrupulous abilities.

Those who have gone through the whole Bangsawan journey, I think you would know by now why you felt like a true KYUEM-ian after it all ended. 'Nuff said :)

Photos should be coming up sooner or later. All I have now is this photo of Topaz's Singgahsana scene taken from Almaz's Facebook.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Some Updates

Hi! One week plus back in KY and I'm already sooo exhausted, it has truly been a long week. Homework, readings, Personal Statement and university application process, Bangsawan rehearsals etc. Phewww!

But I'm having a lot of fun doing all these (perhaps, not so on the homework) though it can be very taxing at times. And I'm having a writer's block with my Personal Statement right now. Got some rough ideas written down but stringing them together into proper, personal sentences; ughh, not so easy. My dateline is this Thursday, by the way. UH OH.

Bangsawan practice is in full-swing, day and night with just 2 more weeks to go. Tonight, for some reason we were in a very lively, wacky mood. Even the most serious of lines turned into laughing banters among the cast members. Gelak sampai berguling atas lantai. Literally ROFL! But everyone's so semangat for this 30th July and we're having a good time bonding with the rest of the House members, too.

Yeaahh, so anyway I've a PS to write and well, it's not going to write itself. Therefore I should get back to it and we'll speak soon, okay.

Toodles! :)

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Umrah: The Way I Story It

"Labbaika Allahuma Labbaik, Labbaika La Shareeka Laka Labaik. Innal Hamdah, Wan-Ni'manatah, Laka Wal Mulk, La Shareeka Laka"
Here I am at Thy service, Oh Lord, here I am. Here I am at Thy Service, and Thou hast no partners. Thine alone is All Praise and All Bounty, and Thine Alone is The Sovereignty. Thou hast no partners.


We landed in Jeddah and got on a 6-hour bus trip to Medinah, all weary but still in high-spirits. I just loved Nabawi Mosque which was just beside our hotel. It was always immensely crowded particularly during praying hours but for some reason, there was a deep sense of serenity and tranquility about the place. I could pray at the mosque with thousands of other women, read the Quran, do a little bit of ibadah sunat and still felt rejuvenated afterwards.

The thought of being in the same building as the Prophet Muhammad's body (he's buried in the original part of the mosque) is quite a compelling thought, a chance that not all Muslims would have and I am eternally grateful for the experience. In front of the mosque's gates, there would be street vendors selling a variety of stuff after every fardhu prayers. Jubahs, rosary beads, scarves, prayer mats etc. so Ibu and I couldn't help but to sneak in a buy or two every time we went back to our hotel from the mosque ;)

But the heat, Subhanallah. Let's just way I'm very thankful for the sunblock, moisturizer and my sunnies. After a few days in Madinah, we went to Bir Ali Mosque for our miqat and to set our niat for our first Umrah in Mecca that was about to come.

In KLIA before departure

Directly beneath the green dome is where Prophet Muhammad is being laid to rest in Nabawi Mosque

Our Mutawwif (tour guide) during the mosque tour

At Quba' Mosque, the first mosque ever built in Islam

Jabal Uhud, where the infamous Battle of Uhud was being fought


It took us about 90 minutes to reach Mecca by bus from Madinah. Reached the city at around 11pm, freshened up at the hotel a bit and found our way to Masjidil Haram, the home of the Kaabah which was just right in front of our hotel. That moment when I walked into the mosque and saw Kaabah for the first time, that was quite a powerful and miraculous moment.

It was definitely breathtaking especially with sights of people still doing their tawaf around the Kaabah even if it was close to midnight. We preceded with our Umrah starting with the tawaf around Kaabah for 7 rounds and then Saie, walking between Safa and Marwah for 7 times too, back and forth. That was quite a journey, phew! Penat oohhh sesangatnya. And ended it with Tahallul which was done by cutting few strands of the hair to mark the end of the Umrah ritual.

Mecca is truly a city that never sleeps. People were doing their worshiping rituals at all hours, day and night. And there's just something about the Kaabah that makes it so stunning and calming even just to look at it. Physically, it's just a big black box but it has such effects on the pilgrims. The place could reduce you to tears, make you look at your ugly sins in retrospective, fill your heart with peace and a sense of awakening from deep within. But only if you fully internalized and appreciated the whole journey right from the beginning.

I love Masjidil Haram not only because of the Kaabah and the infinite benefits of the prayers there (every ibadah done in the Al-Haram area is one hundred thousand times more the pahala compared to elsewhere while Madinah's is one thousand times more) but also because of the people and the stories they tell.

In one corner you could see a father sitting in a circle with 3 of his young sons and teaching them how to read the Quran. In another corner you could see a mother playfully tickling her baby daughter and making jokes with her while waiting for the Zuhur azan to come. In front of the Kaabah, you could see men and women kneeling on their knees after their prayers, crying their hearts out to Allah while they put up their hands for doas. Some were begging for the Almighty's forgiveness, some were asking Allah if He would grant their wishes and dreams while others get teary just at the thought of God's greatness and miraculous power.

If a professional photographer could capture these beautiful moments in photos, oh how amazing they would be. I think that would be one of my dreams in the future, to initiate a photography series of Madinah and Mecca. So many stories to be told and moments to be shared!

Though I'd have to say the biggest challenge wasn't so much of the weather and the exhaustion but the people. Some Muslims who came to the Holy Land as Allah's guests could be pretty ill-mannered and how saddening, that was. I had been pushed and shoved a hundred different ways while I was in Masjidil Haram and Nabawi Mosque just because some of them couldn't be a little more patient and just wanted things to go their way. Sigh, selfish much?

Others would just throw their rubbish everywhere without any remorse even in the mosque, the place considered to be Allah's home. Good thing there were cleaners all around to clean up after their mess otherwise Masjidil Haram wouldn't be such a comfortable place for our prayers.

Saying goodbye to Mecca wasn't easy either. My heart swelled with despair and sorrow at the thought of leaving the place that gave me the chance to get closer to my Creator and find my peace. Before leaving the city, it's a must for all pilgrims to do Tawaf Wada' (farewell tawaf) and the doa being read really tugged my heartstrings.

"Ya Allah ya Tuhanku. Janganlah dijadikan tawaf dan ziarah hambamu ini sebagai kali yang penghabisan di Baitullah. Jika sekiranya ditakdirkan menjadi kali yang akhir maka hamba pohonkan syurga sebagai gantinya dengan kemurahan Engkau ya Tuhan Yang Maha Pemurah lagi Penyayang"

Ya Allah, Oh my Lord. Let this tawaf and visit not be your servant's last time in Baitullah. And if it was destined to be the last time then I seek that you grant me Heaven as the replacement through your generousity, Oh Lord, The Most Gracious and The Most Merciful.

The spiritual retreat had been a great one and my last prayer before I left the place was for Allah to accept the ibadah I did in the name of Him and for me to be given the chance to come back to this Holy Land.

We shall meet again with a renewed self and reaffirmed faith, Insyaallah.

The majestic Masjidil Haram

Our hotel that also had floors of shopping malls. Sakan shopping!

On a camel ride

With Ibu at Jabal Nur

The Kaabah in the afternoon

The Kaabah just before Maghrib came

Dinner at a seafood restaurant with a Malay family who has been living in Mecca almost all their lives

Home-cooked dinner at Aunty Sharifah's house

Self portrait in front of the Kaabah

Afternoon chaos in front of the hotel as everyone prepared to return home

Jeddah's Red Sea

Jeddah became our brief pitstop before we headed home

More photos on FB! :)